Press Releases

Potential Threats to the Independence of the Colombian Judiciary

The New York City Bar Association has issued a statement raising “serious concerns about threats to the independence of the Colombian judiciary” posed by public statements and proposed judicial reforms that have arisen in reaction to the pretrial detention and investigation of former President Alvaro Uribe on charges of witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

The statement relates recent events in which President Uribe’s supporters have launched “political and public attacks claiming, despite the evidence, that the judges [who placed President Uribe under house arrest] were not basing decisions on the facts and the law but, rather, on ideological or political grounds.” President Uribe’s political party, Centro Democrático, according to the statement, simultaneously “issued a press release reviving an old proposal to amend the constitution to completely change the upper levels of the judiciary, with the ostensible aim to ‘depoliticize justice.’” Former presidents of various countries “signed a statement by the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA) criticizing Uribe’s house arrest,” while “[h]uman rights leaders have raised legitimate concerns about interference from Uribe’s supporters and others that politicizes the judiciary.”

The City Bar statement implores “Colombia and its government officials [to] adhere to its own domestic laws and key principles of international human rights,” and warns that “[s]tatements by the President, as well as other Colombian and foreign public officials, present a direct threat to the rule of law and are contrary to the principle of judicial independence.” The statement also points out that these destabilizing activities contradict both the Columbian Constitution and the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary.

Regarding proposed reforms to Colombia’s judiciary, the statement says that “any reform to the justice system should not be introduced based on a political reaction to a particular case, but must consist of a transparent and broad participatory process including different sectors of society and guaranteeing that international principles supporting an independent judiciary are observed. Judicial reforms must reinforce the independence of the judiciary and the prompt, timely, and fair administration of justice.”

Read the full statement here: